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Ethics of Stem Cells
Ethics of Stem Cells
There are benefits and risks associated with the potential use of stem cells.
When we use embryonic stem cells to treat illnesses like cancer, diabetes, MS and dementia, we usually use stem cells from embryos that are 4-5 days old.
This stops the embryo's development, so it never actually becomes a foetus or a child.
Some people think it's okay to stop the development of an embryo to be able to treat illnesses in people, improve their quality of life, or help them live longer.
Other people don't think it's okay to stop the development of an embryo under any circumstances.
Some people say that embryos are lives created by a god or gods, and it's not okay to end that life to treat illness in another life. That is ____________________ argument.
Some non-religious people would also say that an embryo is a life, so it's wrong to end it to treat illness in another life. That is then ________________ argument.
People who say that it is okay to end the development of an embryo to treat illnesses in people, generally argue that an embryo is not yet a life. So stopping its development is not the same as taking a life.
Do humans have a clear, agreed-upon definition for when "life" begins?
Some people say life begins right after fertilisation
So they think that ending an embryo's development 4-5 days after fertilisation is like taking a life. These are religious or ethical arguments.
Other people say a 4-5 day embryo is not a life yet
So they don't think it's the same as taking a life.
There is no right or wrong argument in this debate
You can decide for yourself which group of people you agree with the most.
Some people also disagree with using embryonic stem cells for treating illnesses because there is a risk of transferring for example a virus to the patient. This is _________________ argument.
The use of adult stem cells
Now, the debate about the use of adult stem cells is less heated
Why might that be?
What is the difference between taking stem cells from an embryo and taking stem cells from someone's bone marrow for example?
The debate about using adult stem cells is not the same as the debate about using embryonic stem cells
Some people say it's okay to use adult stem cells, but not embryonic stem cells, because people who donate adult stem cells can opt in or out - they can decide to consent or not consent.
Embryos, on the other hand, can't say yes or no to donating their cells.
At the end of the day, the decision to allow the use of embryonic stem cells must be made by someone. In the UK, who do you think those people are?
There are different kinds of arguments against the use of embryonic stem cells to treat illnesses
You can't say whether these arguments are right or wrong. They are a matter of opinion.
Religious and ethical arguments
Some religious people say that an embryo is a life granted by a god or gods, so it's wrong to end it to treat someone else. Other people also believe an embryo is a life, but they don't refer to religion in their arguments.
Other people say that an embryo 4-5 days after fertilisation is not a life yet, so ending its development is not the same as taking a life.
Health and safety arguments
Some people say we shouldn't use embryonic stem cell treatment because there is a risk of transferring for example a virus from the embryo to the patient.
The debate is less heated about the use of adult stem cells
This is because donors of adult stem cells consent to donating their cells.
In the UK, it's the Government that decides if embryonic stem cell treatment is okay
The decision has to lie with someone, and in the UK it's a matter of legislation.